The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

birdSo this is actually the newest Lisa Jewell, not the previous one I just read, as I had thought at the time  (email from friend, we thought we were both reading the new one-what book are you reading? That’s not what’s happening in it.) The tone of this newest novel is nothing like Before We Met. I’d classify this as a pretty serious, somewhat dark novel. Parts of it are difficult, characters make terrible decisions, you keep thinking ‘oh she couldn’t possibly mean..”, and oh yes she does.  That said, this was wonderful and I gave it 5 stars. So beautifully written and constructed, and a fascinating story.

The Bird family had 4 children (Meg, Beth, Rory, and Rhys)  in it and they were all very happy in their charming Cotswald cottage with their merry, creative mother, Lorrie.  Lorrie was something of a quirky, free spirit.  The story is put together with alternating sections.  In the present day grown up Meg and her daughter have arrived at the Bird house after her mother’s death and are horrified by what has become of the house.  Lorrie was a hoarder. Mentally ill, unable to give or throw anything away, creating a dangerous prison out of the home.  Other sections tell about Meg’s teenage and young adult years, describing how the family fell apart.  And still other sections are emails from Lorrie to an online friend, where Lorrie spills out the family secrets.  It takes all of these sections together to fully tell the story of the Bird family.  I would say the “sad story” of the family, but I don’t want you to think the book is nothing but depressing. It was fascinating, especially as your perspective of Lorrie and the other family members changes (at least, mine did.)

I also liked how she kept returning to Easter. It’s the date of an original tragedy and the action keeps coming back each year to that day.

You can’t help but compare your own house when you’re reading about a hoarder.  My own house happens to have quite a lot of stuff in it, and I am sentimental, but I think I can safely say it’s not in danger of swallowing me up.

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